The 9th ever Dota 2 International (TI9) is just a few weeks away, and it’s the first time that the event will be held in China. This is exciting, especially for Chinese fans of the game, but also intimidating for non-Chinese Dota 2 fans who are traveling to Shanghai, many for the first time.
Where should you stay and eat? What should you check out besides the arena? How do you get around without speaking Mandarin?! Ok, don’t panic. We’ve got you covered for some of the basics.
#1: MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A VISA!
This is the number one tip for a good reason... China is no joke for travel, and you won’t just walk into the country without good preparation. First, check HERE for your country to see the requirement for getting an entry visa.
For U.S. citizens planning to visit China's mainland, you must apply for an entry visa through the Chinese Embassy or Consulate General, which are located in 6 major US cities: Washington, DC, Chicago, Houston, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
An appointment is not required for submitting your visa application, so you can just walk in during office hours. If you have all the necessary documents (application form, travel itinerary, airplane tickets, international tickets, financial proof) and a passport with at least six months validity and a blank page, it should take 4 business days for regular service, or 2-3 business days for express service. But definintely don’t wait until the last minute!
#2: How to get around in Shanghai
I highly recommend getting a pocket WIFI device that can be picked up at the Shanghai Pudong International airport (PVG) once you land, so you can have WIFI access during the visit. Download a VPN to access Google Maps and most of your usual sites, just in case you feel lost or need help.
Shanghai’s metro system is quite user friendly; it might be the easiest and cheapest way to get around. Just download the Shanghai Metro App (Android) (iOS). It’s also worthwhile to buy a Metro card - load around 50 to 100 RMB and you will be good to go.
Speaking of RMB...
How to pay for things:
Some places, especially the international brands, accept Visa/MasterCard. Depending on your card, there might be foreign transaction fees so absolutely check with your bank before traveling - especially since foreign transactions could be blocked. I would suggest exchanging some currency for RMB at the airport to be safe, as well.
Check current RMB exchange rates HERE
#4: The Venue
Mercedes-Benz Arena, formerly known as the Shanghai World Expo Culture Center, hosted the opening ceremony for the Expo 2010. The indoor arena seats 18,000 people and there are restaurants/dining options available inside. As with all stadiums throughout history, the prices for anything will be higher inside.
The arena will have a security check before entering. Food, drinks, professional cameras, and lighters/explosives are not allowed into the venue, and there is no where to check a bag, so make sure to pack light.
You can leave the arena for food during matches, but make sure you don't have food or drinks when you are re-entering. Note that the time to enter the arena is not unlimited, so plan your breaks ahead. For more information, please check the arena’s site.
#5: Where to stay
Shanghai has many hotels, from International chains to local ones. You can choose base on your budget, but try pick a hotel either close to the arena or close to metro stops to make your trip convenient.
#6: Where to eat
Food options are limited inside or near the arena. There is a shopping mall called the River Mall which is about 14 minute walk from arena, where you can find numerous dining options.
If you are willing to go father and try something new, you should not miss Shanghai’s famous soup dumplings and pan-fried buns.
While you may find English signage and people who speak it, it’s not a bad idea to try out something like Google Lens on your phone for help translating. Just point your phone at Chinese text and Google will do its best to translate for you. Better safe than sorry, so queue up a few options if you’re lost or in a pickle.
#8: What to do outside the arena
After watching all the matches, you might be itching queue up for a few games of Dota. There are lot Internet cafés in Shanghai - just remember carry your passport with you, since you cannot play there without it.
Also check out some popular sights while you are in Shanghai:
- The China Art Museum is just 5 minutes from the arena, and is a great option if you are short on time.
- Enjoy a night view in the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, the landmark of Shanghai.
- Take a walk and look at the Waterside Historical Building at The Bund
- Check out the Shopping streets like Nanjing Road.
#9: Some final tips:
- Join the TI9 Reddit group to find people to travel with
- Make copies of all your documents
- Do not do, buy, or carry any drugs, not even marijuana. It’s much less acceptable in China, and you could get in a lot of legal trouble.
Check out the following guides for more in-depth tips on traveling to Shanghai:
- Shanghai Travel Guide - U.S. News
- CHINA TRAVEL GUIDE | Essential Tips to Know - Dia Jin
- The Best Shanghai Travel Tips From Our Readers - Lifehacker
- Everything You Should Know Before You Visit Shanghai - My Adventures Across the World
- 20 tips on China that will make your visit easier - CNN Travel
Planning on watching TI9, but not traveling to China? Check out our TI9 viewing guide here.
Header image source: Valve